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The YMCA are an incredibly large worldwide organisation, but not even I knew the extent and reach of their work. This week I visited a small project of YMCA Bournemouth – The Chatterboxes, who strive to achieve a world where youngsters with disabilities are accepted into society.

It may come as a little shock to most but unfortunately the stigmatisation of youngsters with a disability is still rife within our communities. From a simple misunderstanding to outright discrimination; it happens daily.

It started with a simple magazine created by and distributed to young people with a disability; and it has become a beacon of hope for this age bracket in the Bournemouth area. Creating fun and engaging content to highlight both the issues and positive inspirational stories of their peers, it has swiftly become the go-to medium for these individuals.

Tucked away off the Bournemouth high street, you would never even know it existed. With one full time member of staff, Poppy and a legion of volunteers, they have managed to get the magazine published every quarter for 3 years. Like their offices, their attitude is vibrant and eclectic; passion piled on passion.

Being a user-led initiative, means that the program is led and steered by the young people with disabilities. And who better to lead it? A project for a specific group of individuals led by the very people who live and breathe those issues on a daily basis. If I am honest, I feel it’s this very fact that has kept the project going from strength to strength. The real need was sat in the room with me addressing those issues to help their peers. Refreshing.

I spent my few days across the YMCA’s Bournemouth facilities getting a real feel for how they make change in their community, with chatterboxes at the heart of their operation.

What became quite apparent at a project that turns over less than £50k a year was knowledge of fundraising. They certainly have no problem with publicity, having won a legion of awards and press articles over the past few years, but it’s about turning that traffic into money.

So sitting down we went back to basics and dove into their project. Looking at why they started and where they see themselves going. And, most importantly, how we can turn that into an increasing revenue stream to support their various and vital projects in the area.

Spending so much time with various charities across the country, I am in a privileged position to be able to not only see things from an outside perspective, but use the vast knowledge I’ve gained to know how to tackle a potential obstacle.

We spent a few days going over every aspect of their organisation, really digging to the heart of what they do. It was insightful and beneficial activity and I think it threw up a lot of really good ideas.

I leave the small but incredibly enthusiastic charity knowing that I have made an impact; safe in the knowledge that they really do feel confident to keep going in the right direction.

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